Tag Archives: Bob Marley

Acclaimed Albums – Exodus by Bob Marley & The Wailers

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 241/250Title: Exodus
Artist: Bob Marley & The Wailers
Year: 1977
Position: #210

Exodus is my final Bob Marley album for this list and may be the best of the three, at least it was for me. Maybe it is because the tracks felt like they were starting to mix in other elements to the reggae sound – or maybe it is because the final two tracks were those that I actually recognised and, ultimately, quite like.

I say this, but honestly I don’t think I have onboarded Natty Dread or Catch A Fire enough to make such a claim – I just know that once I finished Exodus for the first time I actually thought that I wouldn’t mind taking it for a second spin in order to write this blog post.

Is this because the album is backloaded with ‘Three Little Birds’ and ‘One Love/People Get Ready’ and so ended on such a high note that the recency effect made me think about going back to the beginning? Most likely, yes – but thinking about replaying a reggae album (not a ska album, thanks to The Specials) was a bit of a first for me so I am going to take it and run with it.

1001 Songs – 1980: Part One

List Item:  Listen to the 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die

The Winner Takes It All – ABBA

‘The Winner Takes It All’ is one of the greatest pop songs made – one of the greatest pop acts of all time. It’s difficult to take the band members at their word that this song about the destruction of a marriage is not about them. If not about them directly, it was clearly shaded – their own experiences and was a massively cathartic song to both be written and sung.

The lyrics brilliantly mix the metaphor of life as a game versus the stark reality of having judges and lawyers decide the outcomes of a divorce. Then there is is Agnetha’s solo vocals from the point of view of a woman who apologizes to her ex-husband for having won everything in the divorce settlement. It’s such a different perspective, the guilt of a winner, compared to a normal break-up song about someone who has ostensibly lost everything. She’s still lost so much, but in the eyes of others she has won. It’s here on the list because of this wonderful song production and who else has made a song that breaks your heart from the point of view of someone who just won their divorce settlement. It’s genius that makes me cry.

Rapture – Blondie

‘Rapture’ is in all the quiz trivia books to be the first song to top the US Billboard Charts with a rap element. Listening to it now, this fusion of disco and hip-hop – a new wave group, is like nothing else that I’ve heard on the list. It’s not really like anything else that I’ve really heard released since. Debbie Harry’s rap skills aren’t great, as she has said since, but let’s also appreciate that the first song with rap elements to top the charts was fronted – a woman.

At this point in musical history, rap had yet to become as big as it was – let alone have a whole song constructed around a rap rather than using an existing backing track. It helped raise awareness of a then more underground genre as well as contribute to paths later pursued – hip hop artists. So yes, an interesting part of music history right here.

While You See A Chance – Steve Winwood

Something has clearly changed in 1980. This is a song that I can’t imagine really existing in 1979 – a rock song with synths and an ABBA-inspired piano line. There’s also part of this song that screams Paul Simon and Randy Newman to me about elements of it too. This… this is early electro-pop. Not the kind of moodiness you get in Gary Numan, but a lighter mood to it. Like this is the sort of song where I can see the beginnings of a branch of pop music that would eventually lead to the work that Xenomania did in the 2000s and 2010s.

With the rise of the New Romantics and more electronic instruments coming in, this is going to be such a cool decade to be listening to. Especially since punk has exploded and we’re left with the remnants fighting it out for innovation.

Heartattack and Vine – Tom Waits

Compared to his last song of his on the list, ‘Heartattack and Vine’ is closer to the Tom Waits that I was enjoying in swordfishtrombones. That voice is the song equivalent of a whisky on the rocks. Literal rocks. Driveway gravel kind of rocks. This is still not as experimental as I have later seen him, but it’s very much him setting up his own cabaret stage and waiting for us to settle in to whatever he is going to deliver.

Kings of the Wild Frontier – Adam and the Ants

So, rather than ‘Prince Charming’ or ‘Stand and Deliver’, the book has decided to go for this earlier single. Now that I’ve heard it, yes the book made the right choice. After all, this isn’t meant to be the 1001 best songs, but down to other factors including their influence.

All the elements that I know from other Adam and the Ants songs are here. The powerful Burundi drum line. The flamboyance of the vocal delivery. The cheers and response vocals from the rest of the group. Sure, it is not as catchy as the later singles that have become staples on Best of 1980s collections – but it’s weirdly powerful. This has yet to veer off into the new wave and pop direction, instead this is one of the many routes that post-punk chose to go down. It makes for a very interesting song.

Redemption Song – Bob Marley & The Wailers

This is not like any Bob Marley song I have ever heard. This isn’t even reggae at this point. It’s an acoustic ballad where the only thing that is remotely reggae is Marley’s delivery. Other than that, this is a folk song. A type of folk song whose background I have heard in folk artists like Bob Dylan and in some country music (the one that immediately came to mind being the title track of ‘All American Made’ by Margo Price, who name checks Tom Petty).

It’s a song of quiet power which is given more power – how close to death he was when writing and recording it. Makes me a bit glad that I still have one Bob Marley album to listen to for the albums list – now I can have this in mind when giving it a go.

Dead Souls – Joy Division

‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ is coming up in a future 1001 songs post, but before that it’s a song that got right under my skin.

‘Dead Souls’ as a piece of goth rock is unsettling. Hearing Ian Curtis sing this song about past lives and being ripped apart as they call you is even more unsettling when you know that he will have killed himself within a few months of recording this. There is an intense eeriness when you mix these odd lyrics with his tortured delivery and the dark drive of the guitars and bass. It’s a weird one to end the section of songs on, but I think I need a break after this.

Progress: 533/1021

1001 Songs – 1977: Part Three

List Item:  Listen to the 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die

Stayin’ Alive – The Bee Gees

This is it, the last batch of songs from 1977 and we’re beginning with one of the biggest songs from one of the biggest cinema soundtracks ever. A song that has been used to teach CPR techniques thanks to it’s BPM and how ingrained in the pop culture it is.

In many ways, it’s a very deceptive song as nearly everything about it is meant to make you smile, want to dance and generally have a good time. However, within those falsetto voices are lyrics about surviving on the streets of New York City. It makes it a perfect match for the film Saturday Night Fever because that deals with a similar subject of duality.

I know that, from their previous song on the list, that disco was not what the Bee Gees set out to do – but they do it so well.

Wonderous Stories – Yes

This feels about as close as you can get to something resembling pop whilst remaining a prog rock out. It’s a ballad about a lovely day in Montreux, Switzerland and it’s just a very beautiful track. Also, for a prog rock song, it’s actually very simple. Sure there’s a lot going on with the electric sounds and the two types of guitar, but everything flows well together.

Apparently the band don’t like this song as it is too accessible. Makes sense, as I quite liked it.

Go Your Own Way – Fleetwood Mac

Classic! Rumours is one of the best albums ever produced and it’s hard to deny that this is a major highlight. The fact that Iggy Pop’s Lust For Life album gets two songs on this list and Rumours gets one is a choice. Would have been great to have had ‘The Chain’ on here for being a very different kind of song – but this list has bigger issues than that.

On an album of break-up songs, ‘Go Your Own Way’ is the song that works the best as that feeling of ‘just get out of my life’. Buckingham’s raw vocals and the fact that so much needed to be over-dubbed as they just weren’t recording together. It’s such a great song of catharsis and I’m going to listen to it again before moving on.

“Heroes” – David Bowie

Another iconic song here. Of course, me being me, I know this most from being in Moulin Rouge‘s ‘Elephant Love Medley’ as the section just before the big climax. It’s one of those songs that I know from so many different places like ‘Regular Show’, ‘Ashes to Ashes’ and a huge number of adverts that I am not sure how many times I’ve actually heard the whole song.

I love the story behind the recording of this album where they rigged three microphones at increasingly further distances away and, as the song progressed, the switched on microphone would move further from Bowie – which explains the increased intensity as the song goes on. It’s not my favourite Bowie, but definitely one I can admire.

Exodus – Bob Marley & The Wailers

Right, so this is the title song from the final Bob Marley album on my albums list. I know, from podcasts that I listen to, that so many musical artists that I love really have been inspired by his music. I just. I just can’t.

The first minute or two of the song was good, I can appreciate a good protest song or a song about politics – but there’s no moving from the first two minutes. It just felt cut and pasted enough times to fill eight minutes. At least with ‘I Feel Love’ there was variation to keep it going. I guess I should just rip off the plaster and cover this album…

River Song – Dennis Wilson

Why has the life of Dennis Wilson not been made into a miniseries. A man who was part of one of the biggest acts of the 1960s, was involved with Charles Manson, had troubles with drugs and then a tragic death at a young age.

What ‘River Song’ shows is that, whilst Brian Wilson was incredibly important to the Beach Boys, Dennis Wilson had some great talent too. This is a beautiful song about someone seeking a simpler life. Knowing about some of his history, it’s sad he never found it.

Whole Lotta Rosie – AC/DC

Firstly, it’s glad to see that we are about to reach a far harder section of the list as a lot of these songs in today’s post have been on the quieter side. Also, how great is it to have a hard rock song that celebrates a plus-sized woman for being an excellent lover. It’s a song that is weirdly body positive… which isn’t something I was expecting when I saw the title.

Black Generation – Richard Hell & The Voidoids

Punk isn’t dead yet (then again, why would it be, this list isn’t in completely alphabetical order) so it’s nice to have it as the genre for one of the year’s final songs. In the end, like it or loathe it, the journey to punk has been a large part of the last 10-12 posts in the songs list. Now it’s time to see where that journey is heading now.

For a punk song it’s melodic (think more Clash or Ramones) and was a song that helped influence ‘Pretty Vacant’ by the Sex Pistols. It’s just one of those weird quirks of release schedules that ‘Blank Generation’ and it’s album were released after the Sex Pistols exploded.

Bat Out of Hell – Meat Loaf

Man this song is so over the top, but that really is the charm of it. It reminds me of an overblown version of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Born to Run’, but with more drama and less heart. Then there are elements that feel drawn from ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’.

I have a feeling that this song is on the list because it’s the title track of the classic slow burn album that has become iconic. They really should have put on ‘Paradise By The Dashboard Light’ as that does everything ‘Bat Out of Hell’ does and a whole lot better.

Lust for Life – Iggy Pop

Okay, fine, I get how the Lust for Life album can end up with two tracks on the list. That drumbeat is just so iconic. It’s weird when you’ve heard an element of a song in so many places and then, for the first time, actually hear it in context.

I’m really not sure how this can fit on the same album as ‘The Passenger’, but one day I’m sure I’ll find out. In the end though, I’m not so keen on the rest of the song outside of the drumbeat – but it does makes for a cool way to end the year.

Progress: 474/1021

Acclaimed Albums – Natty Dread by Bob Marley & The Wailers

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 130/250Title: Natty Dread
Artist: Bob Marley & the Wailers
Year: 1974
Position: #165

Previously on this blog, some 9 months ago, I listened to my first Bob Marley album: Catch A FireI left this album feeling as if I walked in with a pre-conceived notion of what reggae and it was pretty much validated. Did this change after listening to Natty Dread?

No. No, not really. I mean the sound of the music has moved on a bit. I wouldn’t go as far to say it has matured (mainly because I am not sure what matured reggae sounds like), but it there appears to be more of a blues influence in the songs.

Also, I could actually pick songs apart from one another; something I had serious trouble with when listening to Catch A Fire. Thanks to this I think I understand how ‘No Woman No Cry’ became the better known Bob Marley song.

I first came across this song during an ill-fated game of Singstar where the idea of having ‘cornmeal porridge’ amongst the lyrics felt completely alien to me. Now that I am older, and not trying to sing this song to gain maximum points, I think I can better appreciate it.

However, I still find myself in the position where I am left utterly cold by a genre and cannot see a reason for re-playing this album. I know this album further develops the political side of Bob Marley and some people go absolutely mad for his music. Just not me.

Acclaimed Albums – Catch A Fire by Bob Marley & The Wailers

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 114/250Title: Catch A Fire
Artist: Bob Marley & the Wailers
Year: 1973
Position: #143

After the shoegaze of My Bloody Valentine, the electro-pop of Daft Punk and the noise pop of The Jesus & Mary Chain it was high time for me to go back to a genre that I know absolutely nothing about: reggae.

On this list of albums there are three albums by Bob Marley & The Wailers and, going in chronological order, they move lower and lower down the list. So, in theory, what I am listening to today should be the best reggae album ever produced. This maps with the reviews that I have seen of this album.

Now this could be my lack of experience with reggae speaking (no, scratch that, this is my lack of reggae experience speaking) but the bass line for most of these sounded exactly the same. Also, it sounded very similar to a lot of other reggae songs that I have absorbed via osmosis over the years. I don’t mind it too much as this was the perfect music for a warm evening in May (again why I am having to post 5 times a week to try and lessen this ridiculous gap).

As with a lot of albums my favourite track on the album was the first one. I don’t know what it was about ‘Concrete Jungle’ that struck me in particular.  Second favourite track would be ‘Baby We’ve Got A Date (Rock It Baby)’ for the reason that whilst it had the same rhythm in the background it felt different because of the guitar line and the heavier use of backing vocals.

To be honest I went into Catch A Fire with a pre-conceived notion of reggae. Having listened to this album I can’t say that a lot of my thoughts have changed, but I have warmed to this genre a bit more. It’s given me a better idea of where ska’s roots are (something that will be fleshed out more by the 1001 Songs list I bet) which is kinda cool. Weird to think that we got from here to No Doubt singing ‘Bathwater’.